A1) At the end of March 2018, there were 37.9 million vehicles licensed for use on the roads in Great Britain, of which 31.3 million were cars. In the year to March 2018, the stock of licensed vehicles increased by 1 per cent. However, not all vehicle types saw an increase. The largest percentage increase was for light goods vehicles at 2.9 per cent followed by heavy goods vehicles at 1.0 per cent and cars at 0.9 per cent. Both motorcycles and buses & coaches fell by 2.2 per cent.
The total number of licensed vehicles has increased in practically every year since the end of the Second World War. From 1997 to 2007, the annual growth in licensed vehicles averaged 670 thousand per year, although from the mid-2000s it had already begun to slow somewhat. Following the recession of 2008-9, growth slowed further, but did not stop, averaging 170 thousand per year between 2007 and 2012. Since 2012, the average growth has been 640 thousand per year, but is starting to slow with the reduction of new registrations
Historical details about the number of licensed vehicles can be viewed in table VEH0101.
The number of vans on Britain’s roads has been rising more than 2.5 times quicker than cars. Every tenth vehicle on the road is now a light commercial vehicle (LCV).
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of vans increased by 29 per cent to 3.3 million. Over the same period the number of cars rose by 11 per cent to 28.7 million whilst the number of lorries (Heavy Goods Vehicles or HGVs) on British roads fell by 5 per cent to 460,000.
This trend has continued in recent years. In 2017, total van mileage was 67 per cent higher than 20 years ago. Alongside this 67 per cent increase in van miles between 1997 and 2017, the number of licensed vans rose 75 per cent over the same period, from 2.2 to 3.9 million.
The rapid rise in van traffic over the last twenty years means that van traffic now makes up around 15 per cent of total traffic, compared to 9 per cent in 1997. Van traffic grew 2.7 per cent between 2016 and 2017 to reach a record high of 50.5 billion vehicle miles; the fastest growth in percentage terms of any motor vehicle type.
A3) At the end of December 2017, there were 1.5 million Ford Fiesta cars licenced, followed by the Ford Focus with 1.3 million and the Vauxhall Corsa with 1.1 million.
A4) At the end of December 2017, about 39 per cent of privately registered cars were registered with a female keeper, compared to 33 per cent in 1997.
The number of female registered keepers of cars has increased by 61 per cent since 1997, compared with an increase of only 22 per cent in male keepers.
A5) The average car spends about 80% of the time parked at home, is parked elsewhere for about 16% of the time and is thus only actually in use (ie moving) for the remaining 4% of the time.
The RAC Foundation has also produced a Fact Sheet entitled Facts on Parking which contains a wealth of information on parking related matters.
A6) In England in 2016 (the latest year for which figures are available), 11 per cent of household vehicles were parked in a garage overnight; 60 per cent were parked on private property (but not garaged); 25 per cent were parked on the street; and 3 per cent were parked in other places.
The proportion of household vehicles parked overnight on private property but not garaged was highest in rural areas (71 per cent) and generally declined as settlement size increased, down to 51 per cent in urban conurbations.
A7) 7.8 years.
DfT figures show that in 2017, petrol cars were generally older, with an average age of 9.1 years, compared with just 6.6 years for diesel cars. Hybrid or electric cars were much newer with an average age of 3.5 years.
A8) In the average car’s lifetime, it will have 4 owners.
A9) The commercial fleet and company car market is a primary driver of new registrations for cars. In 2017, 58 per cent of all car first registrations were made by companies. However, the proportion of company registered cars in the whole of the licensed car stock was much lower, at only 8.9 per cent. This indicates that cars tend to move quite swiftly from the company market to the private market.
A10) The UK new car market declined in 2017, with 2,540,617 new cars registered. This is down 5.7 per cent on the previous year when 2,692,786 cars were registered.
Annual registrations fell for the first time in six years but were still the third highest level in a decade.
A11) In 2017:-
- 97,564 cars were sold to businesses (companies that operate up to 24 vehicles) – a fall of 7.8 per cent from 105,786 in 2016;
- 1,319,193 cars were sold to fleets (companies that operate fleets of 25 or more vehicles) – a fall of 4.5 per cent from 1,380,750 in 2016; and
- 1,123,860 cars were sold to private buyers – a fall of 6.8 per cent from from 1,206,250 in 2016.
A12) 8,113,020 used cars changed hands in 2017, a 1.1 per cent dip compared to the previous year but still the second highest total on record.
A13) 1,671,166 cars were manufactured in the UK in 2017, a decline of 3 per cent on the previous year when 1,722,698 cars were manufactured.
Car exports remain at an historically high level, with 1.34m units shipped worldwide – 79.9 per cent of total production
A14) In March 2018, the total number of driving licences registered with DVLA was 48,416,500. Of these, 40,331,643 were Full Driving Entitlement Licences and 8,084,857 were Provisional Entitlement Licences. These figures are for the whole of Great Britain.
It should be stressed that neither DVLA or DfT would recommend that users rely on this data being a true reflection of the number of active driving licence holders in Great Britain as the DVLA data includes details of people who have died, emigrated etc and who have not been removed from the DVLA database.
Source: Driving Licence Data
More robust estimates of active driving licence holders are available from the National Travel Survey. Latest estimates show that 74 per cent of all adults aged 17 and over in England (an estimated 32.9 million people) held a full car driving licence in 2017. In 1975/76, the proportion of adults with a licence in England was 48 per cent (an estimated 19.4 million people).
Of the 32.9 million people holding a full car driving licence in England, 17.3 million are men and 15.6 million women. Whilst, over the long term, licence holding among both men and women has increased, the rate of increase has been much greater for women. In 1975/76, 69 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women had a driving licence. In 2017, 80 per cent of men and 69 per cent of women had a licence.
A15) The proportion of young adults (aged 17 -20) in England with a full driving licence has decreased since the early 1990s when driving licence holding for this age group was at its highest. However, the level does fluctuate year-on-year. In 1995/97, 44 per cent of those aged 17 – 20 held a full licence, compared with a low of 27 per cent in 2004. In 2017, 30 per cent of those aged 17 – 20 held a full licence.
In 2017, 29 per cent of young men held a full driving licence – down from 33 per cent in 2016. The number of young women with a full driving licence rose to 30 per cent from 29 per cent in 2016.
Research published by DfT on young people’s travel looked to explain the reasons for a decline in the proportion of young people with a driving licence. Evidence suggests that a rise in motoring costs have discouraged young people from learning; the driving test has become more difficult; and there is some evidence of changes in the values and attitudes of young people – surveys and interviews have shown that many young people now accept not driving with around 8per cent of 17-20 year olds saying they would “never” be interested in learning to drive.
A16) There has been a large increase in the number of older people in England holding a full driving licence. Between 1995/1997 and 2017 the proportion of people aged 70+ holding a licence increased from 39 per cent to 64 per cent. This is due to aging of existing licence holders rather than large numbers of newly qualified drivers in older age groups.
The increase among older women is particularly notable: 75 per cent of women aged 60-69 and 50 per cent aged 70+ held a licence in 2017 compared with 46 per cent and 22 per cent in 1995/97 respectively.
A17) Over 4 million. While not all of these licence holders will be active drivers the statistics illustrate the growing number of older people who still use a car.
Source: RAC Foundation analysis of DVLA data.
A18) Almost one in six jobs requires the applicant to be able to drive.
A RAC Foundation analysis of the government’s employment database found that of the 847,000 vacancies available in Great Britain in July 2015, 131,000 (15.4 per cent) stated that a vehicle or licence was necessary for the post.
Another 7,700 (1 per cent) of the jobs on the list from the Department for Work and Pensions said that a vehicle or licence would be beneficial or practical.
A19) About 76 per cent.
There have been significant long-term increases in the proportion of households with access to a car or van. The proportion of households without a car has fallen from 48 per cent in 1971 (based on the Census) to 24 per cent in 2017 while the proportion of households with more than one car or van increased over this period, from 8 per cent to 35 per cent.
Since 2000, there have been more households with two or more cars or vans than households with no car or van.
A20) In 2017, 81 per cent of adults in England lived in a household with a car or van. This differed slightly between men and women (83 per cent and 80 per cent respectively).
A21) Research carried out by the RAC Foundation (based on 2011 Census data) shows that of the 348 English and Welsh local authorities, the East Dorset District Council area has the highest number of cars and vans per head of population.
For every thousand people – men, women and children – living in East Dorset, there are 694 cars. This compares with an average of 487 cars and vans per thousand people as a whole. By contrast, Hackney has the fewest at 170 cars and vans per thousand people.
A22) The RAC Foundation’s report entitled “The Car in British Society” showed that the dominance of the car as a mode of transport in the early years of the 21st Century is absolute and that policy makers must recognise this fact as they introduce measures to cut traffic and hence ease congestion and fight climate change.
The car continues to dominate most people’s daily travel. In 2017, 61 per cent of trips were made by car, either as a driver or passenger. The car is also the most common mode for distance travelled, accounting for 78 per cent of the total distance travelled in 2017.
Since 2002 there have been fewer car trips (12 per cent less in 2017 than 2002) despite the proportion of households with car access remaining broadly unchanged. Over this period, the average miles travelled by car has also fallen (also by 12 per cent). This is explained largely by the fall in trips, with average trip length by car remaining fairly stable over that period. However, in the years since 2013, car trips made and car miles travelled per person per year have been broadly similar, following the downward trend in the years prior to 2013.
Car use (both as driver and passenger) accounts for only 8 per cent of the trips under half a mile in length but rises to 76 per cent of all trips in the 2 – 3 mile band and 80 per cent of trips longer than five miles in length; above one mile, more than half of all trips are by car.
Source: The Car in British Society
The Commission for Integrated Transport noted in its “Medium-length Trip Patterns” report that 42 per cent of car mileage was driven on medium-length car trips (defined as 5 – 25 miles).
A23) There are 26.5 million working people aged 16 – 74 in England and Wales. Of these, 16.7 million people either drive themselves to work (15.3 million) or catch a lift (1.4 million).
In rural areas, nearly three quarters (73.4 per cent) of workers travel by car (whether as driver or passenger). This method of travel also dominates the commute in urban areas (outside of London) with 67.1 per cent of people either driving themselves or catching a lift. Even amongst Londoners, the car is the most popular single mode of travel, used by 29.8 per cent of workers.
The average length of a commuter trip by car/van varies little across English regions and Wales at about ten miles. It is highest in the South East (11.2 miles) and lowest in London (8.6 miles).
Source: The Car and the Commute
A24) The estimated average annual mileage per car in England has decreased as the number of cars per household has risen, falling from around 9,200 miles in 2002 to 7,800 miles in 2017.
There are different trends depending on if the car is company or privately owned. Company cars have an annual mileage more than double that of private cars (18,000 compared to 7,500 in 2017).
The estimated average annual mileage was higher for diesel cars than petrol cars, at 10,100 miles and 6,500 miles respectively in 2017.
A25) Motor vehicle traffic was at a record high in 2017 as 327.1 billion miles were driven on Great Britain’s roads, a 1.3 per cent increase from the previous year.
Car traffic grew by 1.1 per cent from 2016 to 254.4 billion vehicle miles (bvm) – the highest annual car traffic estimate ever; van traffic continued to grow more quickly than any other motor vehicle type, rising 2.7 per cent from 2016 to 50.5 bvm; and lorry traffic increased by 1.2 per cent from 2016, continuing a trend of steady growth for the past five years.
Since 1949 motor vehicle traffic has increased more than ten-fold from 28.9 to 327.1 billion vehicle miles, largely driven by steady growth in car traffic. However, traffic growth from year to year has not been constant – over the last twenty years there has been a decline in the rate of traffic growth. Between 2007 and 2010, motor vehicle traffic fell for three consecutive years. This was followed by stability, then a resumption of growth to the 2017 record level of 327.1 billion vehicle miles.
A26) ) Five scenarios were used in the Department of Transport’s latest forecasts to capture the uncertainty in forecasting. In all the scenarios, national traffic is forecast to increase but the size of that growth varies, depending on the number and types of journeys that people make, the effect of rising incomes on car ownership and car use, and future trends in income growth and fuel prices – three key uncertainties identified for future road demand. The range of the forecasts is for 19 per cent to 55 per cent growth between 2010 and 2040.
The growth in national traffic levels is predominately driven by the projected growth in population levels. Average distance travelled per person by car is forecast to grow under most scenarios – as rising incomes and falling costs result in more trips being taken by car. However, in one of the scenarios average car mileage per person is forecast to fall by 7 per cent and only population growth explains the growth in traffic. In the other scenarios, population is just one factor in the overall growth.
The growth in national traffic levels masks much more variation across area, road and vehicle types. While traffic growth may continue to be strong nationally, there is a different picture locally. Growth is expected to be particularly strong on the Strategic Road Network – between 29 per cent to 60 per cent from 2010 to 2040 while it is 2 per cent to 51 per cent on other principal roads and 10 per cent to 54 per cent on minor roads. While in most scenarios, traffic is expected to grow strongly on local roads and in urban areas and cities, the lower end of the forecasts represents an outcome where the recent fall in trips continues over the next 30 years.
Source: Road Traffic Forecasts 2015
A27) Details of the plans to improve the Strategic Road Network can be viewed here.
The government has also announced plans to double the strategic road network to around 8,000 miles to create a new Major Road Network (MRN) which will include many routes which are under the control of councils.
It is proposed that MRN would see a “share of the National Road Fund, funded by Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) given to local authorities to improve or replace the most important A-roads under their management”.
A28) The total road length in Great Britain in 2017 was estimated to be 246,700 miles, 200 miles greater than 2016.
The length of motorways in Great Britain in 2017 was estimated to be 2,300 miles. “A” roads in Great Britain accounted for 29,200 miles of road in 2016. These major roads make up 12.7 per cent of total road length.
The majority of road lengths in Great Britain is made up of minor roads, with these roads accounting for 215,200 miles in 2017 (18,800 miles of “B” roads and 196,400 miles of “C” and “U” roads). These minor roads make up 87.3 per cent of the total road length.
A29) In 2017, 188,800 miles (76.5 per cent) of the 246,700 miles of road in Great Britain were in England; 36,800 miles (14.9 per cent) were in Scotland; and 21,100 miles (8.5 per cent) were in Wales.
The road networks for Scotland and Wales account for a higher proportion of all road length in Great Britain compared to the population of these countries, which are more sparsely populated.
Within England, the regions with the largest amount of road length were the South West, which had 31,290 thousand miles, and the South East, with 29,937 thousand miles.
A30) Almost 4,600 miles of British roads have no 2G mobile phone coverage from any network provider meaning drivers could not call for help in the case of a breakdown, accident or emergency. (A 2G signal is the minimum needed to make phone calls and send text messages)
The stretches of road – measuring 4,561 miles in total – represent 2 per cent of the length of Britain’s road network and are to be found in 49 separate local authority areas.
A further 28,975 miles of road (12 per cent) have only partial 2G coverage meaning there are many areas where some but not all phones will receive a signal depending on the service provider.
An additional 111,679 miles of road (45 per cent) have only partial 3G coverage and when it comes to 4G signals, more than half (56 per cent) of the road network has no coverage and more than a quarter (27 per cent) has only partial coverage.
Source: RAC Foundation
A31) In 2017, 68.7 billion vehicle miles was carried on motorways; 98.4 billion vehicle miles on rural A roads; 48.1 billion vehicle miles on urban A roads; 45.3 billion vehicle miles on rural minor roads; and 66.6 billion vehicle miles on urban minor roads.
Traffic on motorways reached a new all time high in 2017 and was 9.8 per cent higher than 5 years ago. Traffic on rural roads has increased by 12.8 per cent over the last 5 years and by 3.7 per cent on urban minor roads. However, traffic on urban ‘A’ roads has been fairly steady over the last five years.
Traffic volumes are not proportionate to road lengths. Although motorways and A roads account for only 13 per cent of the road network by length, they carried 66 per cent of all road traffic in 2017. On an average day in 2017, 82 times more vehicles travelled along a typical stretch of motorway than a typical stretch of rural minor road (‘B’ roads, ‘C’ roads, and unclassified roads).
A32) Smart motorways use a range of new technology to vary speed limits in response to driving conditions and make the hard shoulder available to traffic. This could be permanently or at particularly busy times of the day. They are managed by the Highways Agency’s regional control centres and use CCTV so that Highways Agency traffic officers can be deployed to incidents if they occur and help to keep traffic moving.
Further information on smart motorways, and how they should be used, can be viewed here.
A33) Car and taxi traffic accounted for 78 per cent of all traffic in Great Britain in 2017, with light van and heavy goods vehicle traffic accounting for 15 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. Motorcycles/scooters and buses/coaches accounted for 0.8 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively. Pedal cycles accounted for 1 per cent.
Between 2016 and 2017, van traffic showed the fastest growth (in percentage terms) of any motor vehicle, rising by 2.7 per cent to reach a record high of 50.5 billion vehicle miles in 2017. Distance travelled by cars and taxis also increased, by 1.1 per cent. The 254.4 billion car and taxi miles travelled in 2017 was a new high, with the last three annual totals being above the previous peak in 2007 before the financial crisis.
Heavy Goods Vehicle traffic increased by 1.2 per cent, continuing a trend of steady growth for the previous five years. However, the 2017 figure of 17.0 billion vehicle miles remains around 6 per cent below the peak level seen in 2007.
Bus and coach traffic saw the largest decrease of any vehicle type between 2016 and 2017, falling by 3.4 per cent from 2.5 to 2.4 billion vehicle miles, continuing an overall decline seen since 2007.
Motorcycle traffic remained broadly stable.
A34) About 28 – 30 per cent of HGVs are “driving around empty” at any one time.
A35) Motor vehicle flow statistics give an indication of how busy roads in Great Britain are rather than volume of miles travelled on the road network. They are presented as the average number of vehicles per day per mile of road.
Motorways continue to have the highest average traffic flow in 2017 with 82.1 thousand vehicles for each mile of motorway per day. The average traffic flow on urban “A” roads was 19.2 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban “A” road per day and traffic flows on rural “A” roads were 12.1 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural “A” road per day.
The average traffic flow on urban minor roads was 2.1 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban minor roads per day and traffic flows on rural minor roads were 1.0 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural minor road per day.
A36) The western half of the M25, between Junctions 14 and 15, had the highest average traffic flow in 2017 with 211,000 vehicles per day.
A37) The local authority with the highest traffic level is Hampshire with 9.87 billion vehicle miles. Hampshire is followed by Essex (9.68 billion vehicle miles) and Kent (9.52 billion vehicle miles).
A38) The A458 heading towards Snowdonia sees the biggest seasonal increase in traffic on England’s major A roads. During the summer it carries almost a quarter (23.1 per cent) more vehicles than during the rest of the year.
After the A458, comes the A30 in the West Country (19.2 per cent increase) and the A2070 in Kent heading towards the coast and Camber Sands (16.1 per cent). The road with the fourth biggest increase is the A494 just north of Chester which runs into North Wales (15 per cent) and fifth is the A31 through the New Forest (13.1 per cent).
Full details can be viewed here.
A39) In 2016, the average free flow speed of cars was 68 mph on motorways and 49 mph on national speed limit single carriageways. Vans were observed to have almost identical average free flow speeds to cars on these road types, with values of 69 mph and 49 mph respectively. Cars and vans both had an average free flow speed of 31 mph on roads with a speed limit of 30 mph. For all vehicle types on 20 mph roads, the average free flow speed was above the speed limit in 2016, with the highest being cars and vans at 25 mph.
A40) In 2017, 0.4 per cent of all traffic on British roads was estimated to be accounted for by foreign registered vehicles. HGV traffic has the highest proportion of foreign registered vehicles. In 2017, 4.5 per cent of HGV traffic was estimated to be foreign registered, a slight decrease of 0.3 percentage points compared to 2015. (Figures are not available for 2016).
A41) Highways England is a government-owned company responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of England’s motorways and major A roads. This is the strategic network of roads used to move people and freight around the country.
A map of the Highways England network can be found here.
Other roads are managed by local authorities.
A42) Drivers made at least 31,483 claims against councils across Great Britain for damage caused to their vehicles by potholes in 2015/16. (This figure is based on responses from 204 (out of a total of 207) local highways authorities in England, Scotland and Wales which responded to FOI requests by the RAC Foundation).
This compares with the previous financial year when drivers made 28,971 claims.
The total value of successful claims was £1.784 million. However, councils refused the bulk of claims, agreeing to pay out in just 27 per cent of cases (up from 25 per cent in 2014/15). This average does, however, mask huge differences between councils. For example, while Bolton, Brent and Herefordshire paid out in 100 per cent of cases, a number of councils paid out nothing at all.
The average settlement amount for a successful claim £306 in 2015/16, up from £294 in 2014/15.
Source: RAC Foundation
A43) The total amount paid out in compensation by local authorities in England and Wales in 2017/18 for damage to persons or vehicles as a result of poor road condition was £7.3 million. The associated staff costs spent processing claims totalled £21.0 million. The total estimated cost for road user compensation claims is therefore £28.3 million
A44) 1.534 million potholes were filled in across England and Wales in 2017/18 (compared to the previous year’s figure of 1.748 million). The total cost of filling in these potholes is estimated at £94.9 million, a decrease on the previous year’s figure of £102.3 million.
Since 2015, when the number of potholes filled reached record levels (2.67 million), the number filled each year has been steadily declining.
The Pothole Action Fund will give local authorities in England £50 million a year, over the next 5 years, to help them to repair more than 4 million potholes by 2020/21. Funding is calculated according to the size of the local road network in the area.
A45) If you want to report a pothole you can go straight to the authority responsible for the road (most now have an electronic or web-based system available to the public to report potholes and highway faults).
A46) 18 per cent of roads in England (excluding London), 23 per cent of roads in London and 17 per cent of roads in Wales are reported as being in poor structural condition.
Even if adequate funding and resources were in place to get roads back into a reasonable condition, it is estimated that to clear the carriageway maintenance backlog will take 13 years in England (excluding London), 9 years in London and 24 years in Wales.
Local authorities’ estimate the one-time “catch-up” cost to bring their road networks upto scratch is £9.31 billion.
A47) Data collected from 204 of the 207 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales and analysed by the RAC Foundation shows that 3,441 structures over 1.5m in span are not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on our roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes. These bridges represent 4.6 per cent (about 1 in 22) of the roughly 74,000 bridges to be found on the local road network.
The number of substandard bridges is slightly higher than the 3,203 identified a year previously.
Some of the bridges will be substandard because they were built to earlier design standards, whilst others will have deteriorated through age and use. Many of these bridges have weight restrictions. Others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.
If money was no object, then councils would ideally want to bring 2,077 of the substandard bridges back up to standard. However, budget restrictions mean councils only anticipate 370 of these will have the necessary work carried out on them within the next five years.
Source: RAC Foundation
A48) The Blue Badge Scheme is designed to assist people with severe mobility problems, registered blind people and people who drive a motor vehicle regularly and have a severe disability in both arms, making it very difficult or impossible to operate parking meters, to park close to where they need to go. An information leaflet about the Scheme can be viewed here.
The Government announced in July 2018 that eligibility for a Blue Badge is to be extended to include people with hidden disabilities, including autism and mental health conditions.
The new criteria will extend eligibility to people who:
- cannot undertake a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person (such as young children with autism)
- cannot undertake a journey without it causing them very considerable psychological distress
- have very considerable difficulty when walking (both the physical act and experience of walking)
Full details can be viewed here.
You can apply for, or re-new, a Blue Badge here.
A49) There were 2.38 million valid Blue Badges on issue in England at 31 March 2017, an increase of 5,000 badges (0.2 per cent) when compared with the previous year. This is the first year that the number of badges held has increased since reforms to the Blue Badge application process in 2011/12.
On 31 March 2017, 4.3 per cent of the population in England held a valid Blue Badge. This is a similar proportion to the previous year. In 2010, the proportion was 5.0 per cent.
A50) Figures compiled by the Department for Transport show that 2,921 Blue Badges were reported stolen in England during 2016-17, a rise of 14 per cent on the year before.
This also compares with 656 Blue Badges stolen in 2012-13.